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Books - History - Historical Study - Historiography - Essential Tuchman

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Practicing History:Selected Essays
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Paperback (12 August, 1982)
list price: $14.95 -- our price: $10.17
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Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars Barbara Tuchman for Dinner
I love the feeling that I'm picking the brain of BWT. Her methods of writing and observations are worthwhile for a lifetime. The humility the author has toward fact gathering benefits all her readers. This collection is first a delight to any fan of the woman herself, and second a tool for learning about good history writing. A bonus third point is for history novices like me- a crash course on several topics of interest. A "crash course" from Barbara Tuchman is possibly an experience of the most concise, informative and comprehensive summary on a subject you'll find. A must-have for the restroom bookshelf for those of us addicted to reading.

5-0 out of 5 stars Get it for the Two Essays on The Historian
"Practicing History", by Barbara W. Tuchman, sub-titled "Selected Essays".Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, 1981.

This book is a collection of essays written by the noted Historian, Barbara W. Tuchman (e.g. "The Guns of August"), over the course of her long career.In my humble opinion, for the novice historian, the most interesting essays are, "The Historian as Artist" (pages 45-50), "The Historian's Opportunity", (pages 51-64).In these two essays, Ms. Tuchman challenges the budding historian to not only collect facts, dates and events, but rather to write History so the end product is as engaging as modern novel, BUT, based upon excellent scholarship. Ms. Tuchman is a proponent of "narrative" History, where the facts "...require arrangement, composition planning just like a painting - Rembrandt's 'Night Watch`" (page 49). These two essays would enhance any course in Historiography.

Some of her remaining essays are a bit dated, but provide keen insight into the times, as in Tuchman's "Japan: A Clinical Note", (pages 93-97).Her essays on Israel tend to be a bit chauvinistic, in the sense thatthe author's objectivity slips and she can find very little wrong with the budding Jewish state in what was once Palestine. The essay, "Perdicaris Alive or Rasuli Dead" (pages 104-117), is very entertaining, particularly if you are interested in New York's Teddy Roosevelt.All in all, the first section of this book, (called "The Craft"), includes essays that should be required reading for a student beginning graduate work in History.

5-0 out of 5 stars Tuchman on a smaller scale
These essays allow the reader to enjoy Barbara Tuchman's incisive historical analysis and sharp wit in small doses.Most of the essays were written in the 1950s or 1960s or even earlier, but they are still fresh and pointed. Reading Tuchman is like listening to your favorite history professor.She'll tell a dramatic story and finish up with some wry observations that will keep you thinking long after. ... Read more

Isbn: 0345303636
Sales Rank: 129587
Subjects:  1. 1900-1999 (20th century)    2. 20th century    3. Historiography    4. History - General History    5. History, Modern    6. History: American    7. Reference    8. World - General    9. History / Reference   


The March of Folly : From Troy to Vietnam
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Paperback (12 February, 1985)
list price: $16.95 -- our price: $11.53
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Reviews (34)

5-0 out of 5 stars Pretty much essential reading, these days
I credit Barbara Tuchman with making me enjoy history.She has a rare gift for being incredibly comprehensive (I have no idea how she managed to work her way through the God knows how many sources, primary and otherwise, that she's used in here assorted works (yes, I know, research assistants, but still)) while still maintaining a real narrative stucture to her text.I'd rate A Distant Mirror as one of my favorite books, ever.

The March of Folly is something of a different beast.Tuchman has more of an agenda here, a definite point she wants to get across.Rather thanjust laying out the details of the time periods (which, don't get me wrong, she still does and does well) she uses said details to construct a cogent portrayal of those in power acting in idiotic ways.And she tries to explain why they do so.It's fascinating reading.And you get the impression that even Tuchman is somewhat dismayed by the sheer ineptitude displayed by some of the principle actors in her narrative.

Which is one of the things I like most about her (and, by extension, about this book): she's objective, but only up to a point.She doesn't let her objectivity get in the way of calling moronic behavior for what it is.And that makes this a vastly entertaining read.And, more importantly, a vastly informative one.

Of the three sections of this book (omitting the bit about the Trogan War - I know why she included it, but it still strikes me as a tad misplaced in a work of history), the final one is clearly what Tuchman's been building towards.And it's clearly the most relevant to us, today, given the unmitigated disaster that American foreign policy has, once again, become.(The previous two sections are likewise fascinating, just a bit less pertinent).

Given our current policy, this is a work that should be requitred reading for all in the current administration.Sadly, I would suspect that most of our current leaders have not even heard of Tuchman.A pity - their actions could easily inspire a second edition of this work were Tuchman still alive.

I highly, highly recommend this book.Not only to history buffs, but to all those with an interest in current foreign policy.

4-0 out of 5 stars Wordy but insightful
Insightful look at specific points in history where one or numerous significant errors caused a momentous shift in power or policy.Tuchman begins with the Trojan Horse and skips through time making stops in 16th Century Rome, 18th Century Colonial America and 20th Century Vietnam.Tuchman tends to be verbose in many of her pieces, but The March of Folly is the most extreme case I have encountered yet.Tuchman's thesis is instructive as usual and her argument is presented convincingly.Despite the repetition of information and the depth of the argument, The March of Folly is worth the read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Will Governments ever learn.............
What makes Ms. Tuchman's writing so relevant is how it forces the aware reader to apply the lessons learned onto today's contemporary issues.Moreover, the detail of British perspectives during the Revolutionary War was worth the price of the book alone.Anyone looking for some original work about how the dangers of groupthink and the echo chamber continually lead to ultimate failure should purchase this book. ... Read more

Isbn: 0345308239
Sales Rank: 6134
Subjects:  1. Errors, inventions, etc    2. History    3. History - General History    4. History, Modern    5. History: American    6. Judgment    7. Modern - General    8. Power (Social sciences)    9. World - General    10. History / World   


First Salute
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Paperback (06 September, 1989)
list price: $14.95 -- our price: $10.17
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Reviews (30)

4-0 out of 5 stars "It is not necessary to hope, in order to persevere"
As a history of the American Revolution focused on the sea war, one of its least known aspects, "The First Salute" is a very interesting analysis, but definitely not the best book by Barbara Tuchman.

The role of the sea in the unfolding events has been always considered marginal in the final outcome of the struggle. By describing the first official salute to the United States of America fired by the Dutch port of St.Eustatius in the west Indies in 1776, Mrs. Tuchman stresses the importance of smuggling in sustaining the first phases of the conflict, the role and importance of an American naval force and, in the end, the decisive weight of French naval supremacy in the siege of Yorktown.

A certain weakness can be perceived in the unevennessand disproportion in treating the matter at hands (the Dutch Rebellion takes about 3 chapters, the Seven Years War about 2, two chapters are dedicated to the creation of the Us navy, one to the biography of Admiral Rodney, while the last four chapters are a rather average description of the last stages of the war).

Actually what I liked most was the new fascinating perspective you can command from this approach.
By analyzing the similarities with the Dutch Rebellion (a remark shared with Benjamin Franklin), she can reconsider the American war in a full European context: not just a debate on "philosophical" principles (taxation and representation, freedom of conscience, free trade), but alsoa byproduct of the new precarious balance followed to the Seven Years War (the waning of French treat in Canada, the mortification and wish of revenge of the French monarchy), and the mark of the underground conflict in England between conservative Tories and progressive Whigs (implicit in England, made explicit in the Colonies), that would in the end turn back on the continent andinitiate the age of democratic revolution in Europe.

So was the American a true Revolution?
Probably not. Better to be described as the American Rebellion, its successful outcome was decisive in spreading the great hopes of change nurtured by the European Enlightenment, but in the end - like the Dutch- it contented with the reaffirmation of offended rights never proposing officially a brave new man like the French, Russian and Chinese Revolutions.

Very interesting is also the glance cast on the parallel history of the two rebellions: the likeness of William the Silent with Washington, the nature of defensive war, the uneven weight of the forces (both Dutch and Colonies were forced to fight against the strongest superpower of their age), the intestine war (Flanders vs. Holland, American Tories vs. Rebels), the resemblance of the Dutch Act of Rejection and the Declaration of Independence, the actual outcome in the model offederal government.

As a reader, I'm more interested in the political debate than in the actual story of the American Revolution. If you kept reading up to here, maybe you can be interested in other essays directly related to the argument, I had the chance to read in the past:
-"The Long Affair : Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution, 1785-1800" by Conor Cruise O'Brien, by far one of the best books on Jefferson (see review) -
-"A few Bloody Noses - The American War of Independence" by Robert Harvey (columnist, editor and former British MP ), an appraisal of the war from an all British point of view. Interesting but average.
-"Readcoats and Rebels. The war for America 1770-1781" by Christopher Hibbert, a popular historian. Average but extremely readable.

You are truly welcome ifyou can suggest other readings or just share ideas and comments!
Thanks for reading.

3-0 out of 5 stars Bravo for her rousing explanation of Dutch history!
The best part of this book is Mrs. Tuchman's salute to the formidable ingenuity of the Dutch people.When Tsar Peter the Great decided at the dawn of the 18th century that it was time to bring Russia into the modern world, where's the first place he visited?The shipyards of Holland!He wanted to learn from the masters of the greatest trading nation on earth, with their fleet of 10,000 ships.
The inhabitants of the Netherlands, by might and main, had wrested their land from the ocean.They never stopped pumping water!Our first ambassador, John Adams, called their country "the greatest curiosity in the world...It is like no other.It is all the Effect of Industry, and the Work of Art..."
But the most important period in Dutch history to understand are the eighty years (1568-1648) of resistance against the domination of Spain, then the most powerful nation in the world.Rembrandt, their greatest artist, was born in the middle of that period.So was Peter Stuyvesant, who lost his leg fighting against the Spaniards in the Caribbean (he's buried in New York City's Bowery).Also born at this time: the Dutch East India Company.By 1700 they had gained control of the cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg trade.
Mrs. Tuchman speaks of the 1581 Oath of Abjuration (the Dutch Declaration of Independence), the defeat of the Spanish Armada later in that decade, and the importance of two events in 1609 -- the discovery of the Hudson River ("America's Rhine") and the founding of the Bank of Amsterdam.
It's sad that nowadays the Netherlands seem to have fallen so far, as they embrace euthanasia and other destructive notions...

[I hadn't realized that Mrs. Tuchman's family played such a large role in recent American history: her grandfather was Henry Morgenthau Sr., who was President Wilson's ambassador to the Ottoman Empire; her uncle served as FDR's secretary of the treasury; and her father, Maurice Wertheim, bought "The Nation" magazine from the pacifist Oswald Garrison Villard.Barbara went off to Madrid in the late 1930s to cover the Spanish Civil War for "The Nation."]

3-0 out of 5 stars Misleading title
In The First Salute, A View of the American Revolution, Tuchman attempts to provide new insight to America's war for independence.While she does cover lesser-known events and people, her topic choices are too far removed to be understood unless by historians who wish to concentrate solely on the British aspect.More emphasis is placed on Admiral Rodney and his adventures in the West Indies that any other figure of the era.Few chapters deal directly with the War in the colonies, instead the story centers on naval considerations and British holdings in the area.While these has residual effects on the American Revolution and may be able to entertain, the title is grossly misleading.

Readers who have no preconceived connection with the American Revolution directly or with are seeking a predominantly British view are encouraged to read The First Salute as it is well written, informative and entertaining. Do not be fooled by the title though.While it connects with the American Revolution, its scope only scratches that surface.
... Read more

Isbn: 0345336674
Sales Rank: 115917
Subjects:  1. 1775-1783, Revolution    2. Campaigns    3. History    4. History - General History    5. Naval operations    6. Reference    7. Revolution, 1775-1783    8. United States    9. United States - Colonial Period    10. United States - Revolutionary War    11. History / United States / Revolutionary Period (1775-1800)   


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